Who’s Eligible for Workers Compensation Benefits in California?

Suppose you get hurt or sick due to work. In that case, you may be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits in the state of California. These benefits will cover your medical bills, lost wages, etc. If you are eligible, you may receive the benefits whether you were at fault for the injury or not. In exchange for receiving the workers compensation benefits, you give up the right to sue your employer for damages. 

Disregarding the exceptional cases, industries, and circumstances, there are four basic eligibility requirements for workers compensation; 

The Employer Must Be Covered By Workers’ Compensation 
Generally, a majority of employers must carry workers compensation insurance. The laws vary from state to state. However, an employer’s responsibility to have this coverage depends on the number of employees, type of business, and the kind of work employees do. Some states require the employer to carry workers compensation even if they have a single employee. In contrast, others require two to five employees. Some states carry different requirements for the industries associated with agriculture or construction. Some allow charities to opt-out of it altogether.  In the state of California, the laws are very clear. Workers compensation coverage is legally mandated for all businesses, even if they only have one employee. Solo proprietors or entrepreneurs may not carry it unless they work as a roofer. Additionally, the business must carry workers compensation for employees employed in the state of California, even if the company is headquartered elsewhere. 

You Must Be an Employee 
Not all workers are necessarily counted as employees. Independent contractors, freelancers, consultants, etc., usually are not entitled to workers compensation benefits. Unfortunately, this provision is often abused. Some employers deliberately misclassify their workers as independent contractors to avoid paying workers compensation or payroll taxes. Drivers for certain cab-hailing services, like Uber, often claim they have been misclassified as independent contractors. Suppose you have signed the 1099 tax form (independent contractor). In that case, you may still qualify for workers compensation, but your case is likely to end in a court dispute. The court will look at the measure of control you exercise over your work and your working relationship with the company before making a decision. The benefits do not usually cover volunteers, but there are some exceptions. For example, some states explicitly cover volunteer firefighters. California is also among the states that cover a volunteer’s work-related injuries. 

Employee’s Injury or Illness Must Be Work-Related 
Suppose you get hurt or sick doing something for the benefit of your employer. In that case, you are entitled to workers compensation in the state of California. Even if you hurt your back by lifting some boxes or get a carpal tunnel from excessive typing, you are entitled to the benefits. Illness is harder to figure out. Some people contract a disease when they travel for work. Some get sick from working in a dangerous place, like a mine or a chemical manufacturing plant. Such cases easily qualify for benefits. On the other hand, it is not easy to spot if you contract a viral disease at work or elsewhere. That’s why such incidences are usually dealt with on a case-by-case basis. 

Reporting and Filing Deadlines 
Despite meeting the other qualifications, you may still lose your privileges of workers compensation benefits if you fail to meet the deadlines in the state of California for reporting the injury to the respective employer and filing for a workers compensation claim. 

If you fulfil the requirements mentioned above, you are entitled to workers compensation benefits in the state of California.

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